518 Ocean St., Ste. B

Santa Cruz, CA 95060

(831) 426-3140

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Santa Cruz Dog Bite / Animal Attack Attorney

Your Local Attorneys Serving Santa Cruz County and Beyond for Over 40 Years


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Dog bite injury

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Hire a Santa Cruz lawyer with a proven record and experience with dog bites and animal attacks

Dog bites are by far the most common animal attacks in Santa Cruz County. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, about 4.7 million people are the victims of dog bites each year. This is because dogs are unpredictable. A pet that is submissive to its owner can be aggressive to others. Dogs that have never so much as growled at anyone can suddenly attack for no particular reason.

Most attacks involve children because they spend more time playing with dogs and are very trusting of dogs. Unfortunately, they are more likely to provoke an attack because they are less experienced in reading a dog’s behavior.

Dog bite injuries involve deep bite wounds and result in serious scarring, often times requiring plastic and reconstructive surgeries to repair the damaged areas. Dog bite victims run very high risk of infection and serious injuries.

If you’ve been bitten by a dog or attacked by another animal, you may deserve compensation. Enlist the aid of Santa Cruz personal injury attorneys Brad & Tyson Wiles who will see that you get the compensation you deserve.  They over 40 years experience fighting animal attack injury cases in Santa Cruz, CA. 

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Santa Cruz Dog Bite Attorney

What's the dog bite law in California?

Every state handles dog bite laws and liability a little differently. Some are more forgiving of dogs and their owners, some hold owners to strict liability of all injuries related to their dog’s actions. Here in California, the laws tend toward owner liability. Pet owners are, in general, legally responsible for the actions of their pets, and the consequences of those actions. This means that victims of dog-related injuries usually have strong legal grounds to hold the owners or caretakers of the dog liable for the damage. It also means that the legal defenses for dog owners are very clearly defined. If you or someone you know has recently been injured as the result of a dog’s actions — bite or otherwise — then it’s important to consider your legal options for a liability claim. And if you are facing a dog bite suit, it can help to understand the strict liability laws that California upholds.

California strict owner liability vs the ‘one bite’ standard

In other states, dog bite liability is defined using the ‘one bite’ rule. A dog is only considered to be dangerous after it has already bitten a person or presented aggressive behavior at least once before. In California, according to California Civil Code section 3342, the one-bite rule does not apply and owners are held to strict liability should their dogs cause the injury of another person or damage to their property. This means that civil liability cases can be taken out against dog owners or caretakers even if the dog has no past history of aggression or biting. However, there are special rules for dogs that have already been deemed dangerous. Owners of dogs who have bitten or shown aggressive behavior before have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to remove risks or danger to others. All dog bites must be reported immediately to the local SPCA. The SPCA will take appropriate action to quarantine the responsible dog. Dog bites in California also encompass a very special type of law known as “strict liability.” This means that if a dog bites an individual, the owner is strictly liable regardless of the circumstances. This is true in most instances. The owner of a dog is liable to anyone bitten by their dog that is in a public place, or lawfully in a private place, including the dog owner’s property regardless of whether the dog has ever bit anyone before and regardless of whether the owner knew the dog had bitten anyone before.

The requirements to file a dog bite injury lawsuit

In order to file a lawsuit against the owner of a dog, the injury must conform to a few specific legal guidelines. This helps to prevent malicious fraud targeting dog owners by inciting a dog bite, then filing a claim. The requirements for Santa Cruz dog bite cases also help to define when a person has provoked a dog or gained their injury through unlawful behavior. These three primary requirements also allow California dog owners to train their pets to defend property and even for the dogs to defend themselves. Victims can only file claims if they were bitten while lawfully and peaceably present near the dog. If your dog bite instance falls under all three requirements, then you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the owner or caretaker of the dog in question.

1 – The victim was lawfully located when bitten (not trespassing)

First, the victim of the dog bite or attack must have been in a place they are legally allowed to be at the time of the attack. In a public area, on a sidewalk or street, or on privately owned property are all examples of places where a victim might lawfully be located. As a guest on someone else’s private property or during authorized hours at your place of work would also be relevant. Anywhere you are legally allowed to be will be considered a lawful location for a dog bite suit. However, if the victim is trespassing in any way, a dog attack might not be subject to a liability suit. Closed areas after hours, other people’s homes without invitation, residential and commercial private property are all examples of places that might render your dog bite suit invalid. There may be some debate if warning or trespassing signs were not clearly posted, so the victim may not have known they were trespassing. This rule allows California dog owners to train dogs to protect their property. If a person is trespassing and comes across a guard dog, they have no right to claim liability if attacked. But this is also true of dogs and owners who are not directly connected to protecting the property trespassed upon.

2 – The victim was acting peaceably near the dog

The second requirement is that the victim of the dog bite attack be acting peaceably. This means behaving in a calm, civilized, and non-threatening manner. It is well known that dogs can overreact to someone playing, jumping around, or shouting near them. dogs can become dangerously excited when humans act erratically. Therefore, it is not legally considered the dog’s fault if a person was acting in a non-peaceable way near them and was attacked. This rule also applies when humans near the dog are being attacked. Many owners train their dogs to defend themselves and their families. Many more dogs simply respond to centuries of selective breeding by biting (or even just jumping on) anyone who becomes violent or erratic. Again, non-peaceable behavior can invalidate dog bite liability. For victims who are attacked while walking, sitting, and talking normally, the clause of peaceability is satisfied. Anyone acting in a calm and civilized fashion in a lawful place should not have to worry about being attacked by dogs and the owners will be held liable.

3 – The victim did not provoke the dog

Finally, it is required that the victim not have provoked the dog. Taunting a dog with treats or sticks, poking or kicking a dog, and yelling at a dog are all examples of provocation. Tempting the dog to bite you with play actions then claiming liability is also not permitted in the California court of law. No matter how favorable the laws may be for legitimate victims. This requirement is to protect dogs and their owners from scam artists willing to take a dog bite for a few thousand dollars in settlement. It’s very wrong, but there are some people who would provoke a dog to violence, then blame the dog and owner for the result. The California court is built to protect victims of true animal violence while protecting animals and owners from liability scams at the same time.

Protection from counter suits

If you’ve been bitten by a dog, you have a right to sue for the cost of medical treatment and recovery from that injury. However, dog owners sometimes file frivolous counter-suits to discourage injury claims. They may claim you were trespassing or acting unsafely to nullify your claim against the dog. These claims are designed to dodge responsibility. Fortunately, you can defend yourself from these claims with the help of an experienced dog bite attorney.

Do you need a Santa Cruz dog bite attorney?

Have you recently been attacked by a dog while lawfully and peacefully acting near the animal? Has someone you know been recently injured? Before you decide what to do next, remember that the statute of limitations for dog bite and injury cases is only 2 years after the event of the injury. After that point, no lawsuit can be claimed even if the result of the injuries lasts much longer.
For an informed consultation on what a dog bite attorney can do for you, contact us today! Our legal team is ready to help. –


Some of the common questions we get asked about animal bites cases

Personal injury attorneys take animal bites cases on a contingency basis, meaning you pay nothing until you get paid. And if we lose your case, you owe nothing. 

The vast majority of animal bites cases here in Santa Cruz County never go to trial. Most resolve by settlement before the trial date arrives. A case is most likely to go to trial when the facts are in dispute or when there’s a contested legal issue.

The more carefully you build your case, the more likely it is that you and the other party can agree on the strength of your evidence and reach an appropriate settlement. 

That depends. All cases are different. The shortest cases we’ve settled in Santa Cruz resolved in only a few weeks and without any formal litigation. Others required filing a lawsuit and may take years to settle. Most of our cases here in Santa Cruz fall somewhere in the middle. The more complicated your case, the longer you can expect it to take. You have some control over the length of your case because it’s up to you to accept or reject settlement offers.

Collision reports in California are available through the California Highway Patrol website. You would have to complete a form and drop it off in person or mail it with the required fees.

Yes. Every state has “statutes of limitations” that set a time limit on filing a animal bites injury claim. In California, you have two years to file a lawsuit against a private individual or company, and only six months to file a claim against a government-owned vehicle or employee.

You may be far better off with a animal bites attorney, especially in serious cases. For one, insurance companies may offer higher compensation if you are represented by an attorney. That’s because they know that an attorney understands the true value of the case, and they don’t want to risk the time and expense of a lawsuit by making an offer that is too low. Additionally, often the fact that you are represented by an attorney will trigger laws that allow you to reduce your medical bills significantly.  Some medical providers may even be barred from seeking reimbursement from you. We addressed this further in our “Do You Need an Attorney?” article.

First, make sure you speak to a Santa Cruz animal bites attorney first before you agree to even speak to the insurance adjuster. It would be ideal if you could avoid making a recorded statement at all, but you may be required to under the Rules of Civil Procedure. If that is the case, be prepared and well-informed. The insurance adjustor will be looking for information to weaken the claimant’s case. Be truthful, but do not give any answers that you do not have clear recollection of and that you may not be able to recall later. Make sure you are 100% confident in all your answers. If there is a question you cannot answer, do not answer it. Avoid specificities concerning time, place, distance, speed, etc. 

The value of your claim includes your monetary damages like costs for medical treatment, lost wages, paying for help you need around the home or transportation to medical visits, physical therapy, and other related general expenses. Keep in mind that in some cases, these expenses can continue for a lifetime and this must be accounted for.

You total these losses and then multiply by 1-1.5 for moderate injuries and up to 5 for severe cases to cover pain and suffering. 

California follows what is called a pure comparative negligence rule. That means the maximum amount of compensation you can receive is proportionately reduced by the percentage of fault you share. For example, if the crash caused $40,000 in losses, but a jury determines you were 25% to blame, you would only be entitled to a maximum of $30,000.

What They're Saying About Us in Yelp

Catherine M., Whistler, Canada
Yelp Review, 01/18/2021
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I was seriously injured in an accident on Hwy 17. More valuable that the settlement was being able to sleep at night knowing these two were helping me and looking out for my best interest.
Noelle B., Santa Cruz
Yelp Review, 9/9/2015
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I was getting bullied by the insurance people. This father and son team not only made sure I wasn't bullied any more, but they also got me the PT I needed and more. My case was certainly not a money maker for these guys, but they still gave me their best.
Marlene S., Freedom CA
Yelp Review, 04/06/2014
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Brad and Tyson are amazing. They were able to make us feel comfortable and feel like we truly picked the right people for the job.”
Wendy B., Capitola, CA
Yelp Review, 03/21/2015
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After they presented my case, I was awarded the maximum amount that was allowed. I can now move forward, leaving the accident behind me. I am grateful that my friend recommended them, and I highly recommend them to you!
Royal C., Salinas, CA
Yelp Review, 07/31/2019
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All these five-star reviews for Brad and Tyson are spot on. Knowledgeable, easy to get hold of, friendly, pleasant, highly experienced, I could go on and on. They do what they say they are going to do.
Adam N., Chico, CA
Yelp Review, 02/13/2019
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All I can say is WOW! Respectful, caring, helpful, intelligent, If I could give them 10 stars I would. I highly recommend them!